News

Suspect in machete attack charged with murder

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

A Maple Valley man arrested on suspicion of killing Federal Way real estate agent Hyung “Max” Lee with a machete Jan. 18 suspected his wife of having an affair with Lee and had threatened to kill them both.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng filed first-degree murder charges Thursday against Yong Jun Kim, 54.

Kim’s being held on $1 million cash-only bail at the Regional Justice Center in Kent. His arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 30.

Kim’s wife, Hye Kim, told police their 26-year marriage had been “tumultuous and marked by physical and mental abuse,” but she stayed in the marriage for her children and family.

According to authorities, Kim had become consumed with the suspicion she was having an affair with Lee, who brokered the sale of a gas station and convenience store in North Bend to Kim and his wife about six months ago.

Last December, Kim found a voice mail message Lee left Hye Kim and took it as evidence of their affair. Hye Kim said the message was “innocuous,” but Kim took her and her daughter’s cell phones away from them, authorities said.

Kim confronted Lee about the affair later that month in the office of the convenience store in North Bend, and during the altercation, Kim punched Lee in the face, according to charging papers.

Hye Kim said her husband threatened her and Lee in the following days, saying if she tried to divorce him, he would kill them both, cut them into pieces and bury them on his 2.5 acres of property in Maple Valley, according to court documents.

On Dec. 30, Kim pulled a knife and a gun on her at their convenience store and threatened to kill her and himself, according to charging papers. Their 23-year-old daughter called the police and Kim was arrested and charged with felony harassment. Bail was set at $100,000 and the court issued a no-contact order between him and his wife. After several days in jail, Kim posted bail and returned to his Maple Valley home.

His wife and daughter moved into a hotel to comply with the no-contact order, but Kim had frequent phone conversations with them, during which he again said he wouldn’t allow Hye Kim to divorce him because it would destroy their family. Again, he threatened to kill Lee and his wife and mutilate them if she tried to divorce him, authorities said.

Hye Kim said that in addition to suspecting the affair, Kim blamed Lee for financial trouble at the convenience store and wanted Lee to undo the real estate transaction.

Hye Kim said she spoke on the phone with her husband Jan. 18 –– the day he allegedly killed Lee –– and he was distraught about her intentions to file for divorce. She said the conversation left her so concerned for Lee’s safety, she found a pay phone and called his cell phone to warn him.

While they were on the phone, Lee told her Kim had just pulled into the parking lot of his business, Hankook Real Estate, located in the 23800 block of Pacific Highway South, and he was going out to meet him. It was the last time she spoke to him.

A witness told police he saw Kim’s Lexus SUV speeding north on Pacific Highway. Both men were in Kim’s vehicle when it pulled into the parking lot and ran into the back of Lee’s unoccupied, parked Lexus sedan and flipped over.

Witnesses told police a man, later determined to be Lee, covered in blood, climbed out the windshield and collapsed in front of the SUV. One witness said Lee had three large wounds on the back of his head.

The witness said another man, identified later as Kim, climbed out of the SUV through the windshield and stood over Lee. He raised a machete over his head and struck Lee on the head several times, according to witnesses.

Kim didn’t fight or try to run away when Kent Police arrested him.

Lee died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle about an hour after the attack.

Kim, who drank weed killer after the attack, was taken to Auburn Regional Medical Center for treatment and remained under guard until doctors released him back to the Kent jail.

Maleng’s spokesman, Dan Donohoe, said Kim probably will be transferred to the county jail in Seattle because it has a medical facility and because the suspect is awaiting trial in Seattle for pulling the gun and knife on his wife in December.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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